The creation of “meaningful, functional objects meant to be used” is the guiding philosophy of the Workshop Residence, a veritable R&D think tank for artists founded in 2011 by San Francisco arts patron Ann Hatch.
Hatch, who previously launched the Capp Street Project in San Francisco’s Mission District and helped to co-found Oxbow — the Napa County high school for the arts — with Margit and Robert Mondavi, here examines what happens when you take artists out of their comfort zone and encourage them to create objects that can be locally manufactured for sale.
The results are stunning. Each artist who wins a residency is given an honorarium, a production budget, a place to stay in San Francisco’s hip Dogpatch neighborhood, and a bicycle to use for transportation. The rest is up to the individual.
While the admission process is juried, Hatch says that the judges often accept proposals that are based as much on potential as they are on the actual nuts ‘n’ bolts of the submission. “They make loose proposals so we know generally what they will create but not how they will do it,” she told Dwell magazine in 2012, adding, “There is absolutely no limit to the subject matter. I want there to be an ‘I-didn’t-expect-that-from-this-artist’ element.”
What is essential is that local manufacturers are engaged to produce the resulting designs, be they clothes or housewares or paper goods or lights or furniture made of fungus. “I thought I’d bring the making spirit back to manufacturers in San Francisco,” Hatch told Dwell. The objects are then sold in the adjoining Workshop Residence store and online, allowing the program to be self-sustaining.
In our own brick and mortar Healdsburg store, we’re proud to amplify the reach of Workshop Residence designs and their makers. There you can find Christine Lee and Agelio Batel’s Barn Coat, a boxy, sculptural garment made entirely of denim cast-off scraps.
The Outlaw Schmitz cast iron Dutch oven is a collaboration between famed artist Gay Outlaw and her husband, the wood worker Bob Schmitz. Outlaw is primarily a sculptor, though she often does works on paper, and her three dimensional wisdom is well-paired with Schmitz’s keenly trained craft in a medium new to them both, cast iron. While these pots are sold out at Workshop Residence, we do have them in-stock in our store.
Artist Lauren DiCioccio examines legacy culture that faces obsolescence, those old-fashioned pleasures like print newspapers and magazines, office paper and plastic bags. Her Thank You bags are made of surprisingly strong taffeta and are embroidered to resemble Chinese restaurant take-out bags. Perfect as thank-you gifts unto themselves, these reusable totes are washable and endlessly useful.
We offer a big thank you of our own to Ann Hatch for establishing this thoughtful marketplace for makers, artists, craftspeople, and manufacturers to collaborate on the useful, the beautiful, and the good.